Roofer prosecuted over false claims
A roofer has been prosecuted and sentenced to community work for making false claims to a resident in Verwood, Dorset, when carrying out repair work at his property. This followed an investigation by Dorset County Council trading standards service.
On 17 May 2013, Jonathan William Ball (aged 47) of Elm Farm, Lyne Crossing Road, Chertsey, Surrey, was sentenced at Bournemouth Crown Court for three offences he committed against the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The offences were in connection with roofing work at a bungalow in Verwood, where Ball misled the consumer by telling him the cost was discounted by £2,000 and by failing to inform him of the right to cancel the contract. Ball also later misled the consumer by writing to him falsely stating that unpaid VAT was owed.
Ball was ordered to undertake 150 hours of community work over the next 12 months and pay a £500 contribution to the prosecution’s costs. He had pleaded guilty to the three offences at an earlier hearing on 22 April 2013 at Bournemouth Crown Court.
Jonathan Ball had visited a resident in Verwood, in July 2011. Having found a damp problem in the roof of his bungalow the consumer used the ‘Checkatrade’ directory of traders to find a local roofing contractor and contacted a business called ‘Guardian UK’. Subsequently Mr Ball visited wearing a Guardian UK t-shirt, and persuaded the consumer to pay a deposit immediately to ‘secure the job’ and failed to give the required notice of the consumer’s right to cancel, despite Ball having been previously been advised about this requirement.
On completion of the work Ball failed to provide a previously requested breakdown of costs and gave the consumer an invoice for £5,950 in the name of “Jordan Ball Roofing”. Ball claimed that this included a £2,000 discount. Subsequent examination of the work by an independent surveyor showed that the value of the work done amounted to just over £2,700 illustrating that the claim of a £2,000 discount was misleading.
When the damp problem in the roof worsened the consumer wrote to complain. He subsequently received a letter on Guardian UK paper, which Ball wrote, falsely claiming that the £2,000 discount was in fact unpaid VAT and threatening that if the consumer continued with the complaint that would become payable too.
In mitigating for Ball’s actions his barrister told the court that Ball had dealt with things ‘a bit too quickly’ and failed to go through the steps he should have done.
Ivan Hancock, trading standards service manager for Dorset County Council said:
“This trader came into Dorset to do this work sometime ago and tracing who was responsible for misleading the consumer was not straightforward. Traders who mislead Dorset consumers and fail to provide clear cancellation rights can expect trading standards to investigate them and we will continue to take formal action in appropriate cases.
“It is both disappointing and worrying that a trader behaving like this can get business through a recommendation in a trade directory as was the case here. I would urge those who require work doing on their homes to consider using a trader from the Buy with Confidence scheme, the members of which are audited and approved by trading standards.“
Notes for editors
1. For further information, call Ivan Hancock (trading standards service manager) or Martin Thursby (principal trading standards officer) on 01305 224012, or contact the Communications Unit on 01305 224725.
2. Anyone experiencing problems with a trader and who needs consumer advice can call the Citizen's Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06. This is now the first point of contact for consumers wishing to complain to Trading Standards. Advice will be given and then appropriate cases referred to Trading Standards for investigation.
3. The trading standards service advises that consumers considering having work done around their homes to choose a trader carefully, using recommendations where possible and to get more than one written quote. Consumers should check they know where a business is based in case of problems and limit the amounts paid prior to work starting.
4. Consumers can also look for a trader who is a member of the trading standards ‘Buy with Confidence’ Scheme. Members are audited by Trading Standards prior to acceptance in the scheme. To find a trader in the ‘Buy with Confidence’ scheme check the website www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk or telephone the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06.
5. Traders agreeing contracts of more than £35 value at a consumer’s home or place of work must give consumers a written notice of their right to a seven day ‘cooling off’ period in which the consumer can cancel. These are required by the Cancellation of Contracts Made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc Regulations 2008. Failure to advise consumers of these rights can also be viewed as a ‘misleading omission’, and offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Dorset traders requiring advice on the law can call the Trading Standards Business Advice Line on 01305 224702.
6. More information on Dorset’s trading standards service is available online at www.dorsetforyou.com/tradingstandards
DATE: 22 May 2013